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Snap Shooting 

in 
Close Combat 

By Captain Stephen Stavers, USMCR 



THE VALUE OF HIP-LEVEL snap shooting continue, 
lo be a matter of controversy, notwithstanding the amount . 
of close-in combat firing in this war, especially in the Pa- 
cific theaters. Those opposed to snap shooting decry its 
relative inaccuracy and minimize its superiority in speed. 
Those who favor snap shooting emphasize its effectiveness 
in close combat where the first shots separate the quick from 
the dead. 

The function of snap shooting is clear. It is iutended for 
short range (twenty yards and under) combat firing where 
troops are moving quickly toward each other. In such situ- 
ations it has been observed that almost every man's in- 
stinctive reaction is to fire quickly, without stopping to 
bring the weapon to his shoulder. 



^The opinions or assertions contained in this article arc 
the private ones of the author and are not to be construed as 
official or reflecting the views of the Navy Department or the 
naval service at large.) 

Such hasty firing without benefit of previous practice is 
rarely accurate. A moving opponent five yards away can be 
missed entirely. Yet to align sights on him at that range is 
to anchor yourself in the position of a clay pigeon in a 
shooting gallery. Not only is the stationary shoulder-aimer 
very vulnerahle in close-quarters combat— a bayonet-wield- 
ing enemy can readily parry his weapon barrel and run 
him through— hut the original opponent may himself hit the 
slow aimer first with snap shots. The purpose of hip-level 
snap shooting is to canalize natural reactions and make first 
shots as quick and accurate as possible. 

The principal elements in hip-level snap shooting are 
four: speed, mobility, reduced vulnerability, night effec- 
tiveness. 

By snap shooting it is possible to get off initial shots in 
half a sficond, in._CQntia.st.. to the one and aJialf to two 
seconds it normally takes to get off the first shoulder-aimed 
shot. Troops in the field, after an hour of position practice, 
have averaged three shots snap shooting in the time it took 
them to get off one shot from the shoulder. Of their three 
shots, one and two were hits on silhouette targets at ten 
and twenty yards. 

The mobility of the snap shooter enables him to ap- 
proach his target rapidly without the necessity of stopping 
to fire. Besides increasing his tactical effectiveness, this re- 
duces his vulnerability, for he presents a crouched moving 
target rather than an upright stationary target. His lower 
silhouette also reduces the chance of being hit. 

Sighting in snap shooting is accomplished by holding 

30 




the piece level and pointing it toward the target. It 'is 
therefore effective at night when close-range targets can be 
detected only by shadow or sound. 

The main argument usually made against snap shooting 
is that it lacks accuracy, the implication being that any- 
thing less than one hundred per cent accuracy at close 
range is deplorable. But this reasoning omits the vital time 
element. For even if a shoulder shooter could score one 
hundred per cent hits between the eyes by shoulder aiming 
that would do him no good if several enemy slugs had hit 
him while he was aiming. 

Although the normal accuracy of snap shooting is about 
sixty per cent (with a general range of variation from 
thirty to- ninety per cent), the volume and speed of fire is 
what produces the greater operational effect. Inasmuch as 
three shots can be fired hy snap shooting in the time it takes 
to fire the first aimed shot, the snap shooter is likely to be 
the winner even if his score is only thirty-three and one- 
third per cent. For his one hit precludes the hundred per 
cent score of the aiming opponent. 

Furthermore, the snap shooter's shots that miss are not 
wholly without effect. Firing practically in the face of the 
enemy soldier impairs his aiming or prevents it altogether. 
It is on this basis that hip-level snap shooting should be 
evaluated as a combat supplement to standard range meth- 
ods of fire. 

The basic principle of hip-level snap shooting is to hold 
the piece level at the side, clear of the hip, and pointed at 
the target. An hour of position practice and a few clips of 
firing will considerably enhance any soldier's close-combat 
firing effectiveness. 

Snap shooting tactics are not intended to minimize the 
importance of cover and concealment, on which the range 
methods of fire depend, and which should be used to ad- 
vantage as much as possible. But especially in an assault, 
when a fighter must advance short distances uucovered, 
snap shooting on the run may be his best "cover" as well as 
his best attack. 



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INFANTRY JOURNAL 



When his battalion was committed in the Italian Cam- 
paign, it was apparent to Lieutenant Voss that the prob- 
lems of combat feeding in the Italian Campaign would be 
even more complicated than in Tunisia. In the mountainous 
terrain, the C ration delivered to the troops was often very 
cold and at times even partly frozen. The increasing ex- 
haustion rate was due in great measure to the fact that the 
men were unable to eat this ration. Malnutrition thus ag- 
gravated the physical and mental condition of the already 
emotionally disturbed men. 

By early December 1943, Lieutenant Voss had worked 
out a plan for supplementing the C ration and the K ration 
and he went to the Fifth Army Class I and Quartermaster 
officers. These officers, who also realized that the present 
combat ration left much to be desired, gave their approval 
for the experiment to run through the month of January 
1944, with a complete report to be submitted at the end of 
that period. 

The plan consisted of supplementing the C and K 
rations with adequate portions of high-quality and high- 
calorie pastries, large appetizing sandwiches, and fruit 
juices. To prepare the pastries, a battalion bakery was estab- 
lished, staffed by the baker from each company kitchen. 
Equipment consisted of a field range borrowed from each 
kitchen and improvised baking implements. A large Ger- 
man tent was secured and as the battalion moved into po- 
sitions to attack San Vittore, the bakery began operation. 

The supplement was to be served only when C or K 
rations were to be served to the battalion. On these oc- 
casions when the mess convoy went out at night to feed 
tht: battalion, instead of three meals of C ration, there were 
but two of C with a supplement of two or three large sand- 
wiches of ground beef, cheese, egg, or jam; pastry, either 
turnovers, cinnamon rolls, or raised doughnuts; and an 
ample allotment of fruit juices. 

The effect of this ration on all front-line troops, a ration 
which they could eat, which was nutritious as well as tempt- 
ing, and filling and palatable rather than cold, half-frozen 
C, was at once noticeable. Men who had formerly, after a 
gruelling day of combat, sought sleep, without bothering to 
eat or wait for the ration train, now eagerly awaited the 
evening meal. The spirits of tired men lifted. Exhaustion, 
previous to this time, a ranking producer of casualties, fell 
to the point where in the month, out of one hundred cases 
in the regiment, Lieutenant Voss' battalion had but seven. 
Throughout the month, the three battalions bad an equal 
share of the fighting and hardships. 

The problems which appeared through the month were 
many and varied. The plan had to be kept flexible to meet 
changing conditions. Packaging of the ration to guard 
against winter weather conditions and the necessarily 
rough handling over mountain trails, were successfully 
solved. A small, compact, water-proof box which permitted 
the packing for single platoons and outpost squads, was de- 
vised. 

At the expiration of the experimental period, the plan 
was pronounced an outstanding success by the whole bat- 
talion. The entire experiment was observed by Fifth Army 
representatives, and was officially noted in a Fifth Army 
subject letter, which called it to the attention of the entire 
Fifth Army. 

DECEMBER, 1944 



Patrol Into St. Lo 

At the beginning of the battle of St. 1.6, c 
ment was picked for the job of driving strat_ 
the city. It would be a stiff fight, but we thou£ 
could do it. As it turned out it was tougher than \ 
hstd expected, although we eventually got into St. L6. 

The I&R Platoon was ordered lo pick four men and 
one officer to send a patrol to .in old chateau in order 
to find out exactly what kind of opposition we were 
meeting and where each gun was located. I was one 
of the four men. 

We proceeded through the 2d Battalion outposi 
find advanced to the chateau grorrmfs. Ar thi 
were stopped by automatic-weapons fire. We couldn't 
cell how much, so we scouted around and finally saw 
four Jerries in a clump of brush. Right away we lired 
a rifle grenade into them, and they answered with 
machine-gun fire. We marked the place on the map 
and scouted for more positions. Because the Ger- 
mans hadn't seen us, we ft- 1 1 secure ffl scouting for 
more. In all, we found five positions, Chen ^e putted 
back and the lieutenant called for 4.2-inch mortar 
fire on the five positions. 

Throughoui the- night we lay on the ground and 
called for more fire on different positions as we picked 
them out. At about 0430 hours, when all was quiet 
again, we worked our way back down co the chateau 
grounds. We scouted until about 0900 hours and 
decided all was dear. Then we called back for a pla- 
toon from Company F to come up and hold the 
ground we had taken. After the platoon arrived and 
as we started to leave We decided to have a last look 
ar ound, sq we walked down a road behind tin.- chateau 
ted a Jerry just ducking into toe brush oil 
the road. We decided to take him prisoner. Another 
fellow and t went over to get him. The man with me 
(I didn't know him, as he was from the rifle pla- 
toon that came up to hold for tts) was to give me 
covering fire as I came back with the prisoner. The 
kraut was sitting v.ith his back to me as 1 walked up 
to him. i touched him with my tommy gun and told 
him to come widi me. As In- got Up a machine gun 
about five yards to my left cut loose at me and missed 
with the whole belt. At first I thought I was shot 
but my training stood me in good stead. T auto- 
matically killed the German I was trying to take pris- 
oner, then turned my gun on the Jerry that fired at 
me and killed him, too. Another Jerry reached for 
the gun — it was about three fwt from my stomach — 
bttt I shot him as he started firing, and knocked his 
aim off. The fellow with me killed two Germans. 

Then a mortar coughed twice to my left front, and 
the lieutenant and two corporals who had come up 
opened lire at the mortar position and kept them 
from firing. Then German riflemen started firing at 
us with rifle grenades, which spilled liquid fire all 
over die place. I killed another machine gunner. My 
buddy killed another rifleman, and each of the others 
got two Jerries apiece. 

It ended almost as quickly as it started. The smoke 
cleared away and we counted noses. All of us were 
still OK, not a scratch on any of us, and we had ac- 
counted for thirteen Germans, three machine guns, 
one mortar and the rifles and ammunition which we 
destroyed. We all agreed it was the closest shave we 
had had since D-day. I hope we never have a closer 
one.— Private Harold F. Clawson.